Rare Opportunity: Charlie Watts’ Extraordinary Collection Goes Under the Hammer

Christie’s recently announced an extraordinary event that will captivate literature and jazz enthusiasts worldwide.

The upcoming auction, titled “Charlie Watts: Gentleman, Collector, Rolling Stone – Literature and Jazz,” will showcase two remarkable parts. Part I, a live sale, will take place at Christie’s headquarters in London on 28 September.

Part II, an Online sale, will be open for bidding from 15 to 29 September. This highly anticipated event features the most exceptional collection of modern first-edition books, a rarity unseen in over two decades, and an extensive assortment of jazz memorabilia carefully curated by the iconic musician and legendary drummer of the Rolling Stones.

Rare Opportunity: Charlie Watts' Extraordinary Collection Goes Under the Hammer
Image: Rolling Stones

Unveiling over 500 lots with estimated values ranging from £800 to £300,000, the auction promises an unmatched opportunity for collectors and enthusiasts alike. To offer an immersive experience, select highlight lots will tour Los Angeles from 25 to 29 July and New York from 5 to 8 September. This pre-sale exhibition will enable the public to engage with the items firsthand before the London exhibition from 20 to 27 September.

Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Ronnie Wood, fellow members of the Rolling Stones, reminisce about Charlie Watts, hailing him as the heartbeat of the band for nearly sixty years. They pay tribute to his extraordinary devotion to jazz and literature since his early years, emphasizing his quintessential English gentleman persona. The loss of this exceptional individual is deeply felt by all who knew him.

Rare Opportunity: Charlie Watts' Extraordinary Collection Goes Under the Hammer
Image: Rolling Stones

Charlie Watts, renowned as the drummer who provided the backbeat to some of the most iconic tracks of our time, possessed an ardent passion for both music and the greatest works of twentieth-century literature. Anchoring the live sale is an invaluable inscribed copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’sThe Great Gatsby,” a timeless book that perfectly encapsulates the essence of the Jazz Age. This copy holds a personal inscription to Harold Goldman, the original Gatsby, and carries an estimated value of £200,000 to £300,000.

The collection boasts an impressive array of presentation inscriptions and rare editions by esteemed authors, including George Orwell, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, and James Joyce. Ranging in estimates from £800 to £300,000, these literary treasures will undoubtedly attract discerning collectors and literary enthusiasts.

Charlie Watts (1941-2021), forever remembered, found solace and inspiration in jazz music. As the founder of his own jazz group, The Charlie Watts Quintet, his performances at Ronnie Scott’s became an indispensable highlight of his multifaceted career. His profound love for jazz greats like Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman is reflected in his unparalleled collection of jazz memorabilia.

Notably, the collection showcases his deep admiration for Charlie Parker, an iconic figure in jazz history. Among the remarkable items are Parker’s Associated Musicians Membership Card, his contracts for the Alto Break sessions, and a pair of Down Beat awards from 1952, with an estimated value of £10,000 to £15,000. Additionally, the collection features an annotated printed score for George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” (estimate: £10,000-15,000), further accentuating Charlie Watts’ enduring passion for jazz.

Dave Green, a close childhood friend and jazz musician, reminisces about his dear old friend Charlie, recounting their shared love for jazz since early adolescence. While Charlie Watts would eventually become a member of the greatest rock band in the world, his profound appreciation for jazz remained unwavering. The astonishing jazz memorabilia collection he assembled during his years with the Rolling Stones is a testament to his enduring love for the music and the artists who created it.

In addition to the live sale, the Online sale (Part II) provides collectors and enthusiasts with a wider range of opportunities. Bidding will be open from 15 to 29 September (live for browsing from 18 August). The Online sale features lots by renowned 20th-century authors, including Agatha Christie’s “Murder at the Vicarage” (estimate: £4,000-6,000) and P.G. Wodehouse’s “Carry on Jeeves” (estimate: £4,000-6,000).

Jazz enthusiasts will also find delight in two scores by Irving Berlin, “Songs from Top Hat” and “Songs from Follow the Fleet,” inscribed to Ginger Rogers (estimate: £4,000-6,000), as well as two inscribed piano scores by the influential cornetist Leon ‘Bix’ Beiderbecke (estimate: £6,000-8,000).

Irving Berlin, “Songs from Top Hat” (Estimate: £4,000-£6,000)
Image: Christie’s

Benedict Winter, Specialist, Private & Iconic Collections and Mark Wiltshire, Specialist, Books and Manuscripts at Christie’s: “Charlie Watts holds a unique position within music history and Christie’s is proud to pay tribute to his extraordinary achievements and multifaceted legacy. Charlie built his collection of modern literature and jazz with passion, intelligence and dedication, and this two-part auction celebrates his distinguished collecting taste. We invite the public to join us in this rare opportunity to glimpse the very private world of this extraordinary musical genius.”

As the date of the auction draws near, anticipation mounts for this momentous occasion. Charlie Watts’ remarkable collection of modern first-edition books and jazz memorabilia will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark on the world of literature and jazz, forever preserving the legacy of a true gentleman and collector.

Featured Image: Andrew Timms

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